7 common cancer myths that still confuse people
Even with all the advances health-care professionals have made in cancer research, experts say there still seems to be common myths about cancer people are confused over.
While claims that cellphones and microwaves can give you cancer may be outdated myths, Shawn Chirrey, senior manager of analysis at the Canadian Cancer Society, says people are still confused over other myths.
“There are myths people fixate on,” he tells Global News. “And these things get forwarded to family and friends.”
And in the age of social media and access to the internet, there are thousands of reports (often fake) out there about causes or cancer prevention tips people share and believe, he adds. He often sees this with food in particular (eating a type of food can cause or cure cancer) or during the summer, myths around sunscreen giving you cancer.
READ MORE: 7 breast cancer risks that aren’t true
The web can make the problem bigger
Cancer Research U.K. notes access to millions of resources on cancer on the web makes it harder for some to distinguish fact from fiction.
“Much of the inaccurate information looks and sounds perfectly plausible. But if you scratch the surface and look at the evidence, many continually perpetuated ‘truths’ become unstuck,” the site notes.
One of the most common myths, they add, is the idea that cancer is a human-made and modern disease.
“It might be more prominent in the public consciousness now than in times gone by, but cancer isn’t just a ‘modern,’ man-made disease of Western society. Cancer has existed as long as humans have. It was described thousands of years ago by Egyptian and Greek physicians, and researchers have discovered tell-tale signs of cancer in a 3,000-year-old skeleton. It’s even been discovered in dinosaur bones,” the site adds.
And even on Wednesday as researchers linked obesity to 12 different cancers, Chirrey says for the average person, it’s about looking at the basics to prevent cancer, instead of zeroing in on a few.
“We’re more interested in [Canadians] knowing what they can do to prevent cancer: eating healthy, being active and having a healthy body weight is the best thing you can do to prevent cancer.”
Below, Chirrey goes through some of the most common cancer myths people still get confused about.
Superfoods prevent cancers
Although Chirrey says a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy body weight are good ways to prevent cancer, there are no miracle superfoods out there that will affect your risks. He adds some food can increase the risk of cancer — the society notes processed meat can increase your risk of colorectal cancer, for example.
“Eating a diet based on Canada’s food guide will help you reduce the risk of cancer instead of one food as a cure.”
Bras give you breast cancer
Another common belief, especially for breast cancer, Chirrey says wearing a bra will not give you a cancer diagnosis. The Canadian Cancer Society notes there is no reliable, scientific evidence that links bras and breast cancer, and if there is research that suggests so, they will review and update the results.
READ MORE: 4 common misconceptions about cancer
Sugar feeds cancer
And in regards to food, sugar has also been a culprit of many myths around cancer, Chirrey says. “The myth is sugar feeds cancer cells and makes them grow faster, there is no evidence to that. All cells in your body require sugar.”
He adds what is a bigger concern is the amount of excess sugar people are consuming, which can lead to weight gain, which is a risk factor.
Diets prevent cancer
A new one added to the Canadian Cancer Society’s website, he adds, is the alkaline diet, in particular, being linked to reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer. “These diets are typically focused on weight loss, but there’s no evidence there are benefits to [reducing] cancer risks.”
The society adds supporters of an alkaline diet claim a high-acid diet upsets the balance of your blood and causes disease in the long run (and eating an alkaline-based diet will prevent this).
“The body has a complex system that makes sure the blood stays in its healthy, slightly alkaline range. If the blood becomes too acidic or too alkaline, the body automatically corrects this on its own. Your blood may become slightly more acidic or alkaline after eating certain foods — but it will stay within the healthy range without a special diet,” the site notes.
Cancer is contagious
Kissing, having sexual contact or sharing meals with someone with cancer will not give you cancer. “This is less commonly believed, but having cancer is not something that is contagious.”
The causes of cancer can range from diet to weight to sun exposure to excessive alcohol and tobacco use.
‘Base tans’ are safe
And with summer officially beginning, Chirrey says Canadians should take extra care when it comes to sun protection. Another common belief is that base tans (or quick tans outdoors or in a salon without sunscreen) won’t cause cancer.
“People think base tans protect them, this is more common when people are travelling … but there is no truth in that.”
Sunscreens cause cancer
And when it comes to sunscreen, there are even some reports out there that claim ingredients in sunscreen can cause cancer. “The research on oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate and parabens does not show that they cause cancer. None of these chemicals has been classified as a cancer-causing substance by any major scientific organization,” the society adds.
Chirrey adds besides ingredients, the idea of staying indoors or covering up without sunscreen isn’t helpful either. Here are some ways to stay protected this summer.
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